Setting expectations: Beware of Jedi mind tricks

Who is giving the public relations industry a bad rep? Other public relations agencies and individual practitioners! Why? There are many reasons, but one very big reason is because they are setting false expectations.

Too often, I see other pr practitioners do an Obi-Wan Kenobi routine on clients.

(Wave hand) This is not the ROI/measurement you are seek… This is…

Beware of those Jedi mind tricks.

It is very easy for a pr practitioner to fall into an enabling role instead of a strategic counseling role requiring honesty and integrity. That is why I am turning to a more modern movie, He’s Just Not That Into You, to help you curve your impulse to steer clear of SMART objectives.

It is important to remind clients (and even yourself) that sometimes the consumer is just not into the client. Your role as a pr practitioner is not to be the supportive girlfriend telling your client everything they want to hear, but the role of “Alex.”

Who is “Alex”? He (you, the pr practitioner) is the guy interpreting the signals of the consumer for the client. He is not overly sensitive and is not afraid to tell the emperor (client) he has no clothes.

Do not be the “girlfriend” practitioner telling the client what they want to hear and thriving off drama. Let go of anxiety and fear…do not feed the beast.

Set reasonable expectations between you, the practitioner, and client.

  1. Set the tone before the work begins. Your job as a pr practitioner is to guide the client in trusted counsel. If you begin the relationship with a dog-and-pony show, this will be the tone of relationship to the end. Use honesty and integrity as your guide.
  2. Set limits. Accurately define what communications strategies and tactics can accomplish. Maintain the integrity of communication channels.
  3. Fire the client. And what if, despite your best efforts, the client continues to demand more than is realistic? Then it may be time to fire the client. You should fire a client if you decide the client is not a good fit and that a long-term relationship will not be successful for both parties. But, when you do fire a client, do it nicely. It never pays to burn bridges.
  4. Don’t over-promise. Many pr practitioners, eager to please their clients, fall into the trap of promising too much. You do yourself, client and the ultimate consumer a disservice by being dishonest in setting unrealistic objectives.

Even with the best laid expectations, things will not always come to fruition in the way it was intended. There are exceptions to every rule and that is why you want to be “Alex” and admit when you are wrong and move on with those lessons learned.

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  • dotcalm

    I think of it as loving honesty & positive realism… I can’t stand it when people in my field try to scare consumers into buying more than they need; creating fear is not an uplifting action and is not going to create an uplifting result.
    I also agree that there are times to release a client or create a space for them to release you – I think most people feel that intuitively but act out of some fear or sense of scarcity…I try to remember that whatever extra time/energy I’m spending trying to keep a client that really needs to go could be much better spent on a old or new client that wants my time.
    I still fall into the over-promise trap a bit – and that’s my one of my business goals this summer, to only promise what I have time to deliver. I think as women we want everyone to be happy so we agree to deadlines we’re nervous about… then everyone suffers! If one does it in everyday life they probably carry the practice over to their business; hopefully making the change in one area can help in the other.
    A friend suggested to me about two years in that I should have business policies – definitely would recommend those from the start. If you don’t have a clue where to begin she suggests, “Think of everything that p*^^es you off and write about how you want to handle it!” Great advice!
    Found you through @ConversationAge – thanks for the great post!

  • Lauren Vargas

    Thank you! Totally agree that I sometimes fall into the over-promise trap because I want to keep everyone happy, but if I am not happy or pleased with my work, no one else will be happy!